Saturday, May 28, 2016

Balance, Buddy

In Trust Thyself, I wrote about how yoga can serve as a diagnostic practice, allowing you insight into which areas of the body are tensed and what you can or cannot do in a given day. As I've gone deeper into the practice, I've also noticed it tips me off as to ways I can improve my balance. During several poses that comprise the "balancing series" I've come to find that, for years, I haven't truly balanced my body when needed. Most often, I've simply tensed muscles to overcompensate for other, more "warped" parts of my figure.

In the aforementioned article, I mentioned the high arches in my feet (which I know intrigued you all). Thus, when performing a pose (or asana) entitled standing bow (see below), I noticed that to compensate for such arches, I often tensed tendons on the other side of my feet to remain upright. With practice, however, one learns to... trust thyself and ease into the pose in a way that fosters true balance, with all them relevant body parts aligned. And when you do, it's an odd experience that comes over you. As I found, you increasingly observe your body rather than struggle as you stop doing for it what it can do for itself. You can simply relax, sit back and enjoy the show... so to speak. However, this "halo" doesn't last long and before I know it, I'm back to assessing and working with my balance and an asana which shows me accurately where I "stand" is tree pose.

Bow, buddy

You've likely seen tree pose in pop culture. It's the one where a woman puts her foot to her knee and looks exceedingly calm and collected in her Lululemon pants. In the bikram series, however, tree pose is a bit different. For one, it comes at a point in the series where you've accomplished ten asanas in 105 degree heat and look (and feel) like an ogre. Also, if you do the "full expression" of the pose (which I'm yet to accomplish) it's a bit more difficult than what you might see on a Hallmark card.

Tree pose, or tandasana, in bikram yoga is meant, partially, to open your hips (where a lot of emotion is apparently stored). According to Bikram Yoga Vancouver, it also, "stretches the spine and improves posture and balance while increasing the flexibility of the ankles." For me, however, it also serves as a great way to consistently assess my balance ability. To preform tree pose and use it to tap into how your own body seeks balance, I've included a video below... Enjoy!

Note: There is an entire dialouge associated with each Bikram Yoga class. For copyright reasons, I'm unsure if I can replicate it here but I will do my best to explain the pose through other means. 


1. Start standing relaxed with your feet together.

2. Bend your right leg and bring your heel to the "costume" or place where your leg meets your hip.

3. Hold your heel there and find your balance.

4. When you feel balanced, bring your right hand up to your chest. If you feel you have a good command of your posture, bring your left hand to your chest (not pictured).

This is the difficult part...

5. When your feel you are still balanced, close your eyes. See how well you can keep balancing.

6. When you are done, honor yourself for your efforts.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Progressive Salsa

The idea of a progressive dinner has always confounded me. In an event that warrants travel from one location to the next, I'm pretty sure I'd end up at a Starbucks by myself. In general, progressive dinners seem to be for those with time and a sense of sociability, neither of which I have much of these days. But no matter. Time by myself warrants time for recipe creation... in sweatpants.

In Asian Pickles: Japan, Karen Solomon talks about "progressive pickling" or simply adding vegetables to a pickle bed. The Cadillac of picking beds, as Solomon explains, is a fermented mixture of elements such as chili, rice bran and garlic which are consistently stirred and aerated in order to create a medium to dunk vegetables in so that they... well, pickle. This pickling bed or, nuka, as they refer to it in Japan, reminded me a lot of composting in that you're consistently adding materials to it so that it (ironically) breaks down. But even though the fermenting process of picking often produces lactic acid which will kill harmful microbes in our pickle bed (or gut, according to Dr. Axe), I still find the idea of a pickle bed left out for weeks a bit daunting. I was raised on well-done meat and food that hadn't sat out on the counter for over 30-minutes. So I've been experimenting with other ways in which to bring out the flavors of my food without having any go to waste and what has resulted, is a progressive salsa. 

Apple Salsa

In Candid-dida, I spoke about a greater reliance and acceptance of fruit to satisfy a large sweet tooth. And as I've continued to eat more "natty", I've found myself intrigued by the concept of fruit-based salsas. Indeed, salsa in its common form is generally made of tomatoes which are somewhat of a pseudo-fruit. But mango and pineapple salsas are becoming an increasing favorite as we round the bend into summer. And as I make more salsa, I find I keep adding to it... much like you'd add veggies to a picking bed (to further understand the "pickling bed" you can read Karen Solomon's interview with The Splendid Table here). 

Salsa, in the technical sense, is a sauce so it's no wonder I enjoy its creation and, surprisingly, fruit lends itself very well to this process. While specific ingredients vary, my base is often composed of:

• 1 cup fruit
• 3-4 hot peppers 
• olive oil
• salt

Within this framework, l've found fruits such as apples, mangoes, peaches and, obviously, tomatoes, take well to above combination of ingredients. And whereas lime juice is often added to traditional salsas for that extra kick of acid, placing the above ingredients in a blender and pulsing for a few seconds helps to break down the fruit, allowing its own juices to lend an acidic component to the mixture. And, as in Slow Ride, I talked about how time can lend itself to making cooking a "spiritual" experience, time here, seems to lend itself to more robust flavors. The longer each fruit salsa is allowed to sit (in the fridge) the more flavorful it becomes. And as you buy more fruit, feel free to add more to to mixture, adding more salt, oil and peppers to taste. A few unique combinations lie below.

Simple Pinapple 
•1 cup diced pineapple
• 3 to 4 seranno peppers, minced
• 2 tbsp. olive oil 
• pinch sea salt

place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until mixed and serve.

Fresh Apple Salsa

So, at this point, I'm going to stop pretending I'm any good at creating recipes and let you reference the one put out by the New York Times... here.

Watermelon Pico de Gallo

Ditto... get the recipe, here.

So there you have it... a few recipes to make you the coolest guest at the cookout. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Is Eating A State of Mind

I have a very nice set of "in-laws" who allow me to be on their wireless family plan despite the fact I'm not family in the legal sense. But while this cuts down on costs (for all of us) it means I need to be a bit more mindful of my data usage. Once we begin creeping towards that 90% mark, I know I have to fall in line. So, this means I can't stream as many videos, download as many songs or look at as many Facebook posts on a whim. But, at the end of the day, restraint does me some good... mostly in the sense that I don't waste my time on social media. And during those times I really want to sample a song on iTunes or view the Net-A-Porter website (which generally downloads a bunch of images) but abstain, I know I'm gaining resolve not just in the realm of retail therapy but in an overall mellowing towards instant gratification.

Data usage through the roof.

This "abstaining from the ideal" is also able to be carried into our eating habits. According to (not the most professional of publications, I know), our brains posses the quality of Neuroplasticity, meaning it carries the ability to "rewire" itself. So basically, you can teach an old brain new tricks, and I've heard (through the grapevine) that when we make decisions that don't jive with our normal schematics, new trails are blazed between our neurons. In short, I believe (because I don't have the time to research) that when we fundamentally abstain from engaging in habits that are personally normal but "harmful" (running the gamut from drinking to data usage) we are able to forge a path which gives us new avenues to what are often greener pastures. 

Just recently, I've noticed a lack of reliance on food at all hours of the day. Not that we don't need food consistently for physical sustenance but my emotional reliance on the product has subsided as I've found I have the emotional wherewithal to make difficult choices in alternate areas of life (read: data usage - it's a hard knock life). Either way, I've found that restraint in one area of life can permeate into another. It might be coincidence or it might be unscientific grounds for a blog post. Enjoy! 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Slow Ride

When I was in high school, I loved listening to Sublime. Something in their laid-back vibe mixed with hard lyrics spoke to me. And while Rhode Island's a long way from the LBC, hearing their music today brings me back to those "top-down" days of summer.

Slow ride.

Indeed, now that I'm older, their hard songs don't appeal to me as much as their really slow-paced or acoustic songs, one of them being Slow Ride. While the song talks about a woman taking a guy for "a ride" or stinging him along (laugh if you want) the song always makes me think of washing my vegetables once I bring them home from the market.

I remember reading on Feed Me Dearly, that author Jessica Fiorillo makes it a habit to wash and prep her vegetables upon returning from the market. While this is not indicative of my own habits, I do make plenty of time to thoroughly wash my fruits and/or vegetables before working with them in a recipe. For myself, it's more or less a ceremonial act within the cooking process. For several minutes, I let my head clear, enjoy the quiet and allow my veggies to soak in water (and vinegar) for several minutes. 

However, like any spiritual practice, there resides a practical component to the madness. In Food Is Family, I talked about my love for members of the Brassica family. Broccoli, cauliflower and kale make me hungry just writing about them. But each of the above ingredients needs to be washed thoroughly, particularly due to their "structure". While the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "recommends thoroughly washing all fruits and vegetables with clean water before being consumed to reduce the risk of infection from pathogenic microorganisms," (according to, the site goes on to state that, "[v]egetables such as broccoli and cauliflower have lots of crevices and may require a bit more time to soak [in water]." And as organic vegetables (or those from the farmer's market) can be expensive, it's important to give your food a good wash if bought straight from the store (where it is often hauled to by truck). 

Washing away.

But how do we wash our vegetables in a manner which delivers proper cleanliness and mentally prepares us for the cooking process? In researching this topic, I learned that vinegar can be of service. According to, soaking fruits and vegetables in, "one part vinegar to three parts water" can help to rid goodies of junk that tends to accumulate during the growing and/or transport process. And since soaking your vegetables has been shown to rid your food of more bacteria as opposed to a quick rinse, the process lends itself to better health for both our bodies and minds. When you return home form the store, I suggest soaking your vegetables (and fruits) as a method of both cleansing your food and mind... knowing you are honoring the food you're about to eat by cleaning it well and allowing your mind to soak in its daydreams for a bit. And, if you have the time, put on some Sublime and let your mind wander to those lazy, hazy days of summer. Enjoy!

How to Properly Clean Your (Leafy) Vegetables (Adapted from

  • Fill a bowl with three parts water and one part (white) vinegar
  • If using green, leafy vegetables, separate the leaves and dip them in the solution (if washing broccoli or cauliflower, allow the vegetables to soak in the solution for 2 minutes)
  • Rinse under cold water
  • Pat dry